For many education and equity researchers, the federal Civil Rights Data Collection is a massive, often messy, trove of information on everything from who gets access to college-preparatory classes to which states have the worst racial disparities in discipline. You might have noticed it’s also gotten harder to access.
The website for the data collection includes lots of great tools to look up some of the indicators for schools and districts, as well as reports of national issues, like education for English-language learners. It also contains access to the full dataset of information from every public school in the country that spends at least 50 percent of each weekday on educational services, from charter and virtual schools to juvenile justice facilities and alternative schools for students with disabilities.
Unfortunately, that data has been down most of January.
Representatives from the Education Department said that they are having technical difficulties with the download link, and the Education Department’s policy is still to make the data available online. For now, researchers and other education watchers can send an official request (You can use this form: OCR 2013-14 Flat_File.pdf) for a DVD of the data to firstname.lastname@example.org, including your name and organization in the subject line. There’s no word at this point on when the full data will be downloadable again.
It’s an awkward time to have accessibility problems with the data. The Senate is still debating confirmation of Kenneth Marcus, who is now the head of a Jewish civil rights organization and is President Trump’s pick to lead ED’s office for civil rights. And civil rights groups including the NAACP have raised concerns for some time about the office’s push to scale back the data it collects on potential disparities among students taking Advanced Placement courses and tests.
The next collection, for the 2015-16 school year, is expected to be released by the end of the year, according to ED spokesman Jim Bradshaw, but it may be later than previous collections, which have been released in late spring and summer. That may cause problems for school-rating groups like GreatSchools.org and states that use the civil rights data to provide more context on their school report cards.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.